AN increase in orders at bus-manufacturer Optare is paving the way for a return to profitability according to bosses.

Despite a 30 per cent rise in orders the Sherburn-in-Elmet firm saw turnover fall by 25 per cent to £56.9 million for the year ending March 31, 2014.

The firm, which designs, manufactures and sells single deck and double deck buses in Continental Europe, North America and further afield said the drop in revenue was mainly due to the completion of deliveries for a Cape Town tender, which generated significant revenues in 2012/13.

However bosses at Optare said they had made important steps forward in the year in terms of business growth, which had been achieved through the recovery of sales in its primary UK market and the consolidation of international sales, mainly in Australia and South Africa.

Chief executive Enrico Vassallo said: “Despite challenging market conditions over the last 12 months, I am pleased to report that we are now seeing the positive signs of increased sales activities in our key market of the UK. This has resulted in a 30 per cent growth in orders in 2013-14.

“We believe that the launch of the new Metro range of vehicles will serve to strengthen our market position.

“We have made considerable progress in supply chain cost reduction, implementing manufacturing efficiencies and further improving the quality of our products, and we continue to focus on our processes to drive continuous improvement.

“With the business break-even point lowered we are confident that we have built solid foundations for the group to grow the top line and return to profitability.”

The business posted a net loss of £4.1 million, a drop of £3.3 million on the prior year, principally due to cost reductions and increased efficiencies, while order intake grew to 372 units.